Pink Floyd Amp Settings – David Gilmour Guitar Tone Guide!

Author: Liam Plowman | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Pink Floyd has a timeless appeal that few other bands have been able to garner. They perfectly blend conceptual songwriting, deep lyrical themes, and emotional depth. All of this combines to present a package quite unlike any other band out there.

Having been active since 1965, their impact on the world of music and guitar playing cannot be overstated.

Guitarist David Gilmour is well known for his fantastic phrasing, careful note choice, and particularly his incredibly pleasant guitar tone which many guitarists would love to recreate for themselves.

So in today’s article, I’m going to cover the guitars, amps, and pedals that David Gilmour used to craft his most iconic tones, and walk you through how to set your amp up so you can get the same sounds for yourself!

Guitars

With a career that spanned nearly 50 years, David has used a lot of guitars both live and in the studio. However, if you only had the option to purchase a single guitar to fulfill everything that David does, it would be the Fender Stratocaster.

Most notable is his “Black Strat”, which was purchased in 1970 at the infamous Manny’s Music store in New York. This particular guitar saw the most amount of use in Pink Floyd, appearing on all their major albums from The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and even the later albums such as Endless River.

Over the years the guitar was heavily modded as David continued to develop his personal sound and style.

Eventually, David was afforded the opportunity to create a signature David Gilmour Fender Stratocaster. However, this is currently out of production and only available on the used market.

So a good alternative to this guitar would be to get something like a regular Black American Ultra Stratocaster. Or if you’re on a tighter budget the Squier Classic Vibe 70’s also works great if you were to further outfit it with a pre-loaded David Gilmour Signature Pickguard which has his signature EMG picked already wired into it.

Now of course David doesn’t only use Stratocasters, the range of tones required for Pink Floyd is far too vast. So other notable guitars he uses both live and in the studio are the Gretsch Duo Jet which is famously seen on his performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002, although he acquired it much earlier back in 1978.

And he also uses a good amount of acoustic guitars, particularly favoring the brand Taylor. He has been seen performing live with the Taylor 712CE acoustic guitar around the early 2000s for some of his unplugged performances.

Although these are very top-end acoustics and carry with them a hefty price tag, so for those on a budget something like the popular Taylor GS mini might be a more appropriate choice.

Tuning

The overwhelming majority of both Pink Floyds and David’s own solo material is played in regular standard tuning (E A D G B E).

However, there are a few special exceptions such as the song “Hey You” from Pink Floyd’s album “The Wall” which is tuned a half step down to Eb Standard (Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Ee).

Amps

For the majority of David’s career, his main amplifier of choice has been the Hiwatt DR103. This is a custom, hand-wired amplifier that is manufactured in the UK-based Hiwatt custom shop.

It’s a quad input amplifier with separate inputs for low and high gain inputs, as well as low and high gain bright inputs. This allows David to achieve the massive tonal variety that’s required for a band such as Pink Floyd.

However, these amplifiers are very expensive and are not available from standard retailers (not to mention it’s excessively loud for home use).

So a few options which are both more accessible, affordable, and won’t peel the wallpaper from your living due to extreme volume are the Marshall DSL5CR which is a nice little tube amp that has plenty of headroom despite being 5 watts, and even has a nice inbuilt reverb helping you get that signature Pink Floyd ambiance.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a more comprehensive unit, the Boss Katana head works great as it’s an amp modeler with over 60 inbuilt effects, meaning you won’t need to purchase any external pedals.

David Gilmour Amp Settings

Pink Floyd is a very versatile band, so depending on the song and section you may be required to have a crystal clear tone with high headroom and no breakup, then the next you might need a saturated and effect-laden wet lead tone.

So let’s first start with a standard low gain tone as a starting point before getting into some song-specific tones.

Gain: 6 – David uses what I would describe as a healthy amount of gain for both his rhythm and lead tones. It has enough juice to saturate, but at the same time, there’s a very clear pick attack and plenty of dynamic wiggle room to let the nuances of his playing come through. You can be generous with your gain but don’t get silly with it.

Bass: 3 – Whether it’s a tonal preference or just a byproduct of older music productions, there’s never been a great deal of bass in his guitar tone. So you can add enough to make it feel good, but if you go too far you’ll quickly find it becoming overbearing and distracting.

Mids: 7  – Mids are really king here. It’s what allows Davids’s sound to stay in its allocated spot on the frequency spectrum and be nice and clear, without interrupting any other elements of the mix. This is where the heart of the sound lies and you should be very generous with your mid boost!

Treble: 6 – A slight boost to the top end is what adds a lot of that shimmer and clarity to his tone. I wouldn’t describe it as harsh or brittle, just a little top-end toughness really injects life into what is otherwise a mid-heavy tone.

High Hopes (lead)

This is the lead tone of most guitarists’ dreams, supremely expressive, pleasant to the ear, and responsive. Here you’ll use even more gain and by controlling how much pinch harmonic you introduce into the bends you’ll be able to achieve those iconic and expressive bent notes that David is so well known for.

Gain: 8

Bass: 5

Mids: 7

Treble: 6

Breathe (clean)

Breathe uses a bright and chimelike clean tone that sounds like it’s played on the neck pickup to get more of the mid-heavy twang. There’s no audible breakup in the sound and you can help further accentuate that twangy aspect by picking closer to the bridge.

Gain: 0

Bass: 6

Mids: 7

Treble: 6

Hey You (rhythm)

One of the most interesting things about the rhythm guitar for Hey You is that it uses single-note walking lines instead of something like strummed power chords.

This means the gain needs to come back a little bit to let the attack come through, and there’s a healthy dose of mids to make sure those notes really pop and don’t get overwhelmed by the other instruments.

Gain: 4

Bass: 3

Mids: 7

Treble: 6

Pedals

David is a keen pedal user and uses each of the items on his pedalboard with intention and purpose to great effect (no pun intended).

The good news is none of them are particularly rare or are expensive boutique items. All these pedals are pretty easy to get and fairly affordable for the average player.

David uses the iconic MXR Phase 90 for his phaser sound which replaced his original UniVibe back in 1974. I very much prefer the Phase 90 due to its simplicity and the fact it’s so popular, making it cheap and easy to get ahold of second-hand.

For this main fuzz tone, he uses the classic Big Muff PI from Electro Harmonix. This is an old-school pedal that was also used by Hendrix, but as it’s still in production it has remained both popular and is still very accessible.

For his chorus pedal, the Boss CE-2 Chorus has been spotted sitting on top of his live rigs, and it’s believed it was used extensively throughout touring cycles of the 80s and 90s.

One thing David did use is a graphic EQ pedal called the GE-7 (also from Boss). This can add a second layer of tonal sculpting which can be used to augment specific tones without needing to return all the way to the amp and mess around with those knobs.

The DigiTech WH1 Whammy Pedal has made appearances on a few notable Pink Floyd songs including Marooned from Division Bell, as well as on some of his own solo material. While its application is quite specific and you might not use it on every song, it’s a really fun pedal to play around with nonetheless.

Time to Shine On

One of the best things about David’s guitar setup is there’s nothing too crazy going on, nor any unique tricks that only industry insiders know about. All his equipment is fairly affordable and easily accessible to the average player.

I hope you find the information that I’ve shared helpful and have fun creating some of David’s iconic guitar tones for yourself!

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About Liam Plowman

Liam is a British musician who specializes in all things guitar, audio, and gear. He was trained as a guitar technician at the Oxford Guitar Gallery and currently teaches at multiple music schools across the UK. Key skillset includes purchasing unnecessary guitar equipment and accumulating far too many plugins.

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